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If You Are Arrested

If you are arrested by the police you have certain rights and responsibilities.

While police can hold you for a reasonable time, they cannot arrest you just to make enquiries. If you are arrested, you are entitled to know what you are under arrest for.

The police must tell your rights, such as:

  • you can contact a friend or relative to tell them where you are
  • you can contact a lawyer
  • you don’t have to say or do anything, and anything you say or do can be used against you.

Use these rights. Contact a friend, call a lawyer and don’t make any comment until you have legal advice. Simply say ‘no comment’; guilt cannot be inferred if you make no comment at the interview.

After questioning is completed, the police will take your fingerprints. They are entitled to do this as a matter of law and they can use reasonable force if necessary.

After the interview

Depending on the charges, you may be:

  • released from custody pending receipt of a summons
  • released on bail, or
  • kept in custody.

Released from custody pending a summons

In this case the police release you from custody and a summons (a charge sheet) is given to you weeks or months later, ordering you to appear in court at a specified place and time.

Released on bail

Bail is a promise that you will attend court at a future nominated time and place. The issue of bail arises if police charge you with the offences immediately after the interview. The police can grant bail themselves from the police station or a court can grant bail. If you have to apply to a court for bail, it is important to have a lawyer representing you because you can generally only apply for bail once.

Different offences have different entitlements to bail. For most offences, you will be released on bail immediately unless the police can prove there is an unacceptable risk that you will not come to court, that you will commit further offences or interfere with witnesses.

For more serious offences, such as murder or serious drug trafficking, you can only be granted bail if you demonstrate to a court that there are exceptional circumstances justifying a grant of bail. If you are charged with armed robbery or committing an offence while on bail, you must show cause to a court why you should not be detained in custody.

Held in custody

A person is deemed to be ‘in custody’ if they are held in police cells or in a correctional facility or if they have not entered their bail.